Island is under siege by insects
KAHULUI, Hi. — “Hawaii’s second oldest island is vanishing.” That’s the opinion of Dr. Janet Eckstadt, chief entomologist for the state.
[Shown are photographs from NASA’s Earth Observatory showing the Hawaiian Island chain as it is today and, through computer simulation, how it is likely to appear in a hundred years.]
At a meeting here of the International Association of Entomological Scientists, Eckstadt predicted that by the end of this century, Maui will have no landmass above three meters, and by the fist quarter of the next century it will be totally submerged. According to Eckstadt, the cause of the island’s disappearance is not due to erosion or volcanic activity, but rather the island is being consumed by ants, specifically Strumigenys mailei, the most destructive of the 42 species of ants found in Polynesia.
The ants were brought to Maui from Samoa in the early eighteenth century by traders and have flourished in the rich, volcanic soil. Today there are estimated to be over 78 trillion ants on the island, and their colonies are growing at an astounding rate, having doubled in population in just the past two years.
“Each ant,” Eckstedt noted, “can carry six times its weight and will remove up to a cubic centimeter of dirt and other material every day. That equates to 78,000 cubic meters of material — essentially dust — that gets carried away by the trade winds every day. So the island is shrinking from the inside out.”
But that’s not all. Eckstadt says that the dust that is carried away, comes to rest briefly on the sea surface before sinking. This thin surface film, which can cover vast areas, causes the sea surface temperature to rise, a major contributor to rising sea levels. “What this means to Maui,” says Eckstedt, "is that at the same time that its land mass is dwindling at an ever increasing rate, its surrounding seas are rising. Maui is disappearing.”
In related news, Err Travel has learned that Florida is sinking.